Personal Journals about Hang Gliding

Another great voice of hang gliding silenced

Postby Rick Masters » Fri Feb 05, 2016 4:37 pm

Uli Blumenthal, author, member of the German national team
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At 68 years of age, Blumenthal caught a wingtip on a tree at take off from the Bavarian Alps. Spun in. Fatal. November 1, 2015.

    "Who has not dreamed it - the dream of flying? The ability to glide weightlessly, without expensive equipment, across the sky, like aves humanis. Long before the first people charged into the air, there were myths and legends, such as the miracle of the Egyptian phoenix or the heroic Germanic saga of Wayland the Blacksmith."

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Sculpture of Wayland the Blacksmith

    "The dreams of flight that come in the night are described in ancient books. Why does the sleeping person move so surely, flying in dreamland, without ever having exercised this apparently familiar ability? ... The sudden feeling to float freely, like birds, apparently weightless, to conquer the air, the sea, without engine noise or a constricting cabin - this exhilaration can be realized by a few ridiculous wires, tubes, and a colorful sail over one's head. Non fliers can hardly understand the euphoria of an enthusiast -- to him, once entranced, kite flying becomes like a mind-expanding, recommended drug - not at all destructive to body and mind."
Last edited by Rick Masters on Fri Feb 05, 2016 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rick Masters
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Re: Another great voice of hang gliding silenced

Postby Rick Masters » Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:52 pm

Let us honor Uli Blumenthal's memory with a reading of the Germanic saga.

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Wayland the Blacksmith

PROLOGUE
    Once upon a time, as the king of Seeland was on his way home from a victorious raid through the Baltic lands, a nighty storm arose and his ships were forced to drop anchor, somewhere along the Ostsee (East Sea) coast. There, he met a beautiful water fae named Wachhild. She fell madly in love with the handsome mortal, and her feelings were returned. However, as Autumn fell over the land and the leaves started to turn, the king knew he had so set sail for his home shores and said goodbye to the faery.
    Some months after his return home, he had a visit from Wachhild. She presented him with a baby boy, their son. Then she walked into the sea and was never seen again. The King named the boy Wate and gave him over to the care of his weapons master, where he grew up to be a huge, fearsome warrior. He married a woman of noble birth who bore him three sons: Wieland, Egil and Helferich.

WIELAND'S EDUCATION
    As the boys grew, each showed extraordinary talents in their chosen fields: Egil was adept with bow and arrow and became a famous archer; Helferich had an instinct for herbs and flowers and became a healer; while Wieland was fascinated with the forging of metal, so Wate sent him to a famous blacksmith, the dwarf Mime. It is said that Mime had even instructed young Siegfried in the art of swordmaking. Be that as it may, when Wieland returned home after three years, he impressed everyone with his craft.
    But deep in the woods of Saxony, two dwarf were practising their art with gold and silver (being of the fae, they could of course not work with iron). It was said that their skills way surpassed those of Mime. That is where Wate took his son next, but these two masters were not as friendly as Mime and Wate didn't trust them one bit. He hid an iron sword nearby so Wieland would be able to defend himself if the need arose. He promised to return in 12 months time.
    Wate did show up 12 month later, but laid down to rest by the gate which lead into the cave of the elves. Those two tipped a huge boulder onto him as he slept because they wanted to retain the services of Wieland. Thus was Wate killed.
    When Wieland found his father's body in the morning, he went for the hidden sword and avenged his father's death. Then he buried Wate, sad that the man had not fallen in battle but had fallen victim to the fae.
    Back in the cave, he gathered all the elven tools of his trade before he set out to find his way home to Seeland. For a long time he wandered, through forests, over mountains, until he finally came to a mighty stream that he needed to cross. From his mother, he had inherited an instinct for the water and he knew of its dangers. He fell and hollowed a huge tree and set himself adrift, hoping that the stream would take him out to the sea where he might be picked up by a passing ship that would take him home to Seeland.
    But this was not to be.

KING NIDUNG
    As Wieland drifted along on the river, he got caught in the net of fishermen, who pulled him in and then brought their strange catch before their King, Nidung. The king was highly impressed with the treasures found in the boat. Wieland admitted that he knew something of the making of metal implements, and offered his services to the king. The king immediately took him up on it. Wieland managed to secure his boat and the elven tools in a hiding place.
    One day, he happened to lose a knife that the king used frequently at table. Fearful of what might happen when this was discovered, he set about to forge a new knife. When the king tried to cut himself a piece of bread with this knife the next day, the knife went through the bread as if it were soft butter, and even cut into the table. The king was of course amazed at this, and asked who was responsible for making this amazing blade. Wieland replied that it must have been Amilias, the king's master smith. And Amilias readily agreed.
    Nidung, of course, knew better because he had used Amilias' products as long as he could remember. But Amilias raged that there was no proof that he could not have made this knife. So the king ordered Amilias to forge a helmet and breast place, and Wieland to forge a sword. If the sword was better than the armor, Amilias would die, but if the armor could withstand the sword, Wieland would lose his head.
    Immediately, Amilias set to work, with the help of everyone in the smithy, and eleven months later, he pronounced the helmet and breastplate complete.
    Wieland had not even begun to work on the sword, and the king reminded him of his part in the royal amusement.
    The next morning, Wieland declared a sword ready. Nidung was amazed and could not believe a weapon forged this quickly to be worth anything. Thereupon, Wieland asked him to the river, into which he threw a ball of lint from a woolen garment. He held the sword against the lint, and the gentle rhythm of the waves were enough to drive it against the sword ... it was immediately cut in two!
    Wieland humbly informed the king that if given one more day, he could make a REALLY good sword. This Nidung wanted to see!
    Wieland took the sword and filed it into little shavings which he mixed with secret ingredients known only to elves. The next day, he had a blade of the purest, hardest steel. This sword cut a strand of wool the same way the first one had cut the ball of lint.

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    At the appointed time, Amilias showed up with his brand new breastplate and helmet in place. Wieland touched his chest with the sword, and hardly gently pushed it right through the armor, into Amilias' heart. The smith was dead.
    King Nidung wavered between being quite upset and being very impressed. Finally, Wieland told him the truth about who he was and how he had acquired his expertise. The king asked for the sword as a gift. Wieland agreed but asked to take it back to the smithy, where he forged a second sword, identical in appearance but of lesser quality. This then he presented to the king. Mimung, the blade forged with elven magick, he hid for himself.
    From that day on, Nidung held Wieland in high esteem and treated him almost as one of his knights. Many a beautiful piece of jewelry Wieland made for the king's daughter, Badhild. Of course he fell in love with the maiden....

NIDUNG'S TREACHERY
    Then word reached King Nidung that the Vikings were on their way to invade his realm. So he readied troops for battle and set out to meet the enemy. Wieland rode with the king.
    As they got closer to the Vikings, they found themselves terribly outmanned. But the worst fear befell Nidung when he realised he had left behind a magic ring that had always brought him victory in battle. He offered half his kingdom and the hand of his daughter to whoever would bring his ring to him by next morning sun-up.
    Wieland told the king not to worry, he would fetch the ring. The noblemen laughed at him and called him a fool, no-one could accomplish such a feat, but Wieland just laughed, swung himself upon his horse, and rode off.
    Before it was even midnight, he came upon Nidung's castle, got the ring, and got back on his horse. But as he came near the camp, Truchsess, an advisor to the king's and himself after the hand of Badhild, waylayed him to take the ring and claim the prize. Truchsess and his men were no match for Wieland, and soon they lay dead.
    King Nidung was very surprised when Wieland handed him the magic ring, but when he heard about Truchsess, he was happy to have found a way to get out of his hasty promise of the day before ... he called Wieland a traitor and a murderer and banished him from his lands.
    This quite angered Wieland, who asked the king is this was how he always kept his word ... and warned him that the would someday bitterly rue this day.
    Then he rode off.
    But wherever he went, whatever he did, he could not get the beautiful Badhild out of his mind. He knew he could not see her openly, but what if he got her to take a love potion?
    Next thing you know, he was working in the kitchens of King Nidung, disguised as an old cook. And the love potion was on it's way to the place of the Princess in her favourite dish....
    Not a brillant idea, really, had Wieland known that Badhild's knife possessed magical qualities and sounded when encountering magic!
    Who but the new cook could be responsible for this! It didn't take long for Wieland to be recognised and in deep trouble.
    Nidung had him taken to a small island, where he was to work for the king for the rest of his life. But the worst part was the Nidung bade his henchmen to cut Wieland's tendons so he'd be lame and could never escape.
    This upset everyone, including Badhild, but no amount of entreaties could change the king's mind and the horrible deed was done.
    It was a very long time before Wieland was well enough to drag himself into the smithy the king had set up for him on the island, so he could fashion himself crutches to get around on. He knew that some day, he would be free again. But first, he would take terrible revenge on the king.

WIELAND'S REVENGE
    Long and dreary were Wieland's days on the isle, but even longer and more dreadful the nights. Finally, after countless nights without sleep, he had the beginnings of a plan for revenge. To the king, he pretended to have given up and was satisfied with his lot, so that after a while, he wasn't watched quite so carefully anymore. It now happened that word of Wieland's misfortune reached the ears of his brother Egil, the master archer. He decided to approach the king, and in order to allay any suspicion, he took with him his five-year-old son. The king welcomed the famous archer in a friendly enough manner, but any request on Wieland's behalf fell on deaf ears. Egil, however, was not easily discouraged and remained at King Nidung's court.
    So it came to pass that one day, Nidung came up to him as he walked with his son in the royal gardens. The king had a strange look in his eyes as he contemplated the archer.
    "Egil, I heard it said that you're the best archer anywhere. Care to prove that to me?"
    Unsuspecting, Egil replied that yes, that was indeed so, and should the king care to name a target, he would hit it, dead on, no matter how small.
    This is where Nidung reached into a tree, plucked an apple, and sneered at Egil to shoot the apple off his son's head. Not exactly what Egil had in mind, but no amount of begging could sway the villainous king, he was enjoying himself too much. Moreover, he informed Egil that should he either refuse or miss, he would suffer the same fate as his brother Wieland.
    What could Egil do. He pulled two arrows out of his quiver, and as the child stood still as a statue, apple on his head, Egil aimed carefully and the arrow went straight through the apple.
    When Nidung inquired what the second arrow had been for, since Egil was only allowed one shot, the archer looked at the king and informed him that had the first arrow missed the apple and hit the child, the second arrow would not have missed ... it had been meant for the king*
    Nidung continued to act friendly toward Egil, but what he really thought he kept to himself. He even took Egil into his employ but father and son had to live on the isle with Wieland.
    Egil was puzzled at Wielands behaviour; the cripple had asked him to shoot down the largest of birds, as many as humanly possible. And what Wieland was feverishly working on in the smithy, that he couldn't figure out, either.
    Then, one day, unexpectedly, the time and means and revenge were at hand. Now it must be said that the old Wieland, the strong and proud Wieland, would never have considered such a horrible deed, but desire for revenge was now all that drove the bitter creature he had become.
    Nidungs two young sons had obtained permission from their father to go to Wieland to get new arrowheads. Wieland agreed. He told the boys he would even do something extra ... forge a spell into the metal that would let the arrows always hit their mark. But it would only work if they kept it a deep secret ... so they were to come back tomorrow, walking backwards, so no-one would know that they had come there.
    The boys, overjoyed at the prospect of these magickal arrows, didn't think this through and readily agreed to Wieland's basically nonsensical request.
    As they returnd the next morning, he opened the huge old chest that held the precious metals he often worked with. Greedily, the boys rummaged through the treasures.
    Their heads were neatly separated from their bodies as Wieland slammed the heavy lid shut on them.
    King Nidung awoke, with a heavy sense of foreboding after a night plagued by strange and disturbing dreams. It soon became apparent that the princes had disappeared in the early morning hours, and perhaps it was a sixth sense made Nidung extend the search to Wieland's isle, but all that could be seen were the boys' footprints, leading away from the smithy.
    It was quite some time later that the king received the two most magnificent drinking bowls, the envy of all his guests, so masterfully were they framed in gold, inset with the most precious stones.
    The man had no idea that what he put to his lips were the skulls of his children.

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Wieland the Smith, 1850        Moritz von Schwind (1804–1871)

    But Wieland's thirst for revenge was not yet stilled. Fate played into his hand as the beautiful Princess Badhild lost a bracelet, a gift from her father, as she and her maidens were playing in the castle grounds. She soon found it, but someone stepped on in and it was quite ruined. The princess was afraid of what her father's temper could think of nothing better than to secretly make her way to the island to ask Wieland to fix it for her.
    He was quite amenable to this idea. But the work would be delicate, and he had another thing or two to finish first. She didn't mind waiting, and gratefully sipped on the cup of wine he handed her.

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    As Wieland slipped the mended bracelet on her arm, he told her of his love for her, and how she would long be his wife had her father not broken his word. Badhild fell into his arms, quite overcome with love for the smith ... this feeling facilitated, of course, by the strong love potion that had been in her wine. Morning dawned over the sea as she slipped back into the castle, unnoticed.
    From that day on, she spent all the time she could at the smithy. She promised that when the day came, she would follow him to his homeland. Of course she had no idea how Wieland would ever get away.

FREEDOM
    Finally, Wieland's masterpiece was finished. He had skillfully arranged the feathers of the huge swans that Egil killed for him and fashioned a mighty pair of wings. With arms made strong from years of swinging the hammers in the smithy, he lifted himself off the island. But not yet towards Seeland ... he had unfinished business with Nidung. Who wasn't long in appearing in the courtyard, wondering what the commotion was all about ... he just about had a stroke when he saw the birdman, perched atop the highest tower of the castle. His voice shaking with rage, he called for his master archer. Who took his time in coming, so Nidung decided to stall for time and engage Wieland in conversation.
    Which is exactly what Wieland had planned. Making the king swear an oath before the entire court that Egil and his son would leave the castle unscathed, he let the king know what had happened to the princes, and that he had drunk from the skulls of his sons. Moreover, the Princess Badhild was now a smith's wife.
    When Egil finally showed up, Nidung threatened him, sword in hand, either he shoot or he and his son would die. Right then, right there. But Wieland kept flying, despite the blood that soon dripped down from his wings ... Egil had skillfully aimed at bladders filled with blood that Wieland had attached between the feathers.
    And so Wieland made his way home to Seeland, soon followed by his brother Egil and the boy. Because from that day on, Nidung was a broken man. The spirit had gone out of him, his luck in battle left him, and he was soon a mere shadow of his former self.
    Great was Wieland's happiness as one day, a ship arrived at the coast of Seeland and a woman emerged; Badhild had left her father's castle with nothing but the clothes on her back, but Wieland cared about nothing but that his beloved wife was now with him. Not even the news that Nidung had been killed in battle could make him any happier than he now was.
    As they finally got to celebrate their wedding in style, Badhild presented him with a precious gift ... she had brought something from her father's castle after all: The sword Mimung, so it could be returned to its rightful owner.
    For many, many years they lived together in love and happiness. Their son, Wittich, later gained fame at the side the great Dietrich of Bern.

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Rick Masters
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